As part of Dwarfism Awareness Month, we caught up with Rachel Choong, a 10-time world champion within the SH6 classification on court who is keen to keep making an impact off it through her work to ensure badminton is a welcoming sport for all.
The 27-year-old has taken on the role of a Badminton England Inclusion Champion, in addition to her existing ambassadorial positions with Badminton Europe, Sporting Equals and the Asian Sports Foundation.
The sport’s debut as part of the Paralympic programme in Tokyo has only heightened the interest in a world Rachel has been involved in for the past 13 years and she hopes this momentum will continue to grow.
“I’ve been part of it since 2008 and with the role I have, I would like to see everyone experience what I experienced and the reasons I love the sport,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic spectacle, highly entertaining and there are real friendships between competitors as well.
“That’s so special and it would be nice for everyone to see that and experience the joy of para badminton.”
As part of Badminton England’s Inclusion Champion programme, Rachel is both a voice and role model for equality, diversity and inclusion within her local club and community.
“I’ve seen on social media there are some clubs who are now having specific disability badminton sessions, which is fantastic,” she said, while this is coupled with the number of inclusive clubs nationally who welcome disabled people to their existing sessions.
“The work the clubs and Badminton England are doing is great and hopefully that will create a real energy throughout England to grow the number of disabled players.
“Then, hopefully, we can go out with a bigger team to the next Paralympics.”
One of Rachel’s passions within her Inclusion Champion role is empowering more women and girls to become involved in badminton.
“I knew it was important to get involved in various roles and use these opportunities and platforms to help champion all types of inclusion, diversity and equity,” she said.
“Working with these organisations has helped me understand that I am passionate about promoting women and girls into sport, promoting disability sport and participation – particularly Para Badminton, and promoting racial equality in sport.
“I still think there’s more work to be done in terms of gender equality within the sport.
“We could do more to promote women and girls into the sport, and I hope to help grow and develop Para Badminton, particularly for female players.
“I would like to see future generations aspire to be top Para Badminton players and have the necessary support and pathways that enable them to achieve their goals.
“For some women and girls, the reason they stop playing is that they prioritise other things over badminton.
“If we supported women and girls more to see badminton as a career or something to do alongside their family life, that would be key.
“I’d like to see more women and girls not only participating but also involved in other areas such as governance, volunteering and coaching. That would be great.”
Choong hopes to be part of the Paralympic squad when the Games head to Paris in 2024, with a decision on whether her SH6 classification will be included due at the start of next year.
She was able to make it to Japan over the summer, viewing the twists and turns from the commentary box in a role she describes as ‘the next best thing’ to playing, but wants to be on court next time around.
“It was strange being at a tournament and not competing – commentary is something I hadn’t done before and the whole experience was completely new to me,” she said.
“But it was amazing being in the venue and seeing it all. Now it has had the exposure at the Paralympics, I hope the sport just continues to grow and keeps that element of being really special.”
Rachel will now look to continue progressing her playing career alongside the great ambassadorial work she is doing to grow the sport.
“I will continue the work that I am doing, working with fantastic organisations that aim to make sports as inclusive as possible,” she said.
“I will continue to promote and champion inclusion and diversity until it is truly embedded.”